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Authors: Yang, Yung Yung (Rosy)
Advisors: Christensen, Thomas
Department: Woodrow Wilson School
Class Year: 2013
Abstract: Although the Hong Kong today is far from the political catastrophe that some scholars and popular media once predicted upon its return to China in 1997, the political scene is not a rosy one. 16 years into the implementation of the novel “one country, two systems” concept of governance—first proposed by Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping—in Hong Kong, the city has undergone multiple periods of political instability, including in 2012 over the case of Moral and National Education. What explains the recurring episodes of political instability in Hong Kong since the handover of 1997? Whereas many have pondered this question, no systematic answer has come forth. This thesis seeks to address this question by proposing a new theory, the theory of baselines and comfort zones. The theory stems from a close examination of Hong Kong’s mini-constitution, the Basic Law, as well as the incentives it gives to two main groups of actors on the Hong Kong political scene, the pro-Beijing camp and the pan-democratic camp. The central argument of the theory is that when an issue concerns powers considered by both the pro-Beijing camp and the pan-democratic camp to be within their respective comfort zones—hence important for safeguarding their respective baselines— and when the capabilities that the two camps can credibly bring to bear are similar, political instability invariably results. Using a technique of process tracing, the theory’s claims are tested against a number of empirical case studies spanning all politically important periods Hong Kong has experienced since the handover of 1997. These claims are confirmed in every case, lending support to the theory of baselines and comfort zones as a viable approach for understanding the workings of “one country, two systems” and the political difficulties Hong Kong has faced since the handover of 1997, as well as for informing the future course of Hong Kong’s political development.
Extent: 125 pages
Access Restrictions: Walk-in Access. This thesis can only be viewed on computer terminals at the Mudd Manuscript Library.
Type of Material: Princeton University Senior Theses
Language: en_US
Appears in Collections:Woodrow Wilson School, 1929-2017

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